Every day some where in America, Black communities are terrorized by police violence. Some well-known examples are: Jacob Blake, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Alton Sterling, Sandra Bland, Ahmaud Abery, Mike Brown, Aiyana Jones, Tamir Rice, Oscar Grant, Freddie Gray, Botham Jean, and Natasha McKenna. But the list goes on.
In the video above, I discuss why it’s time for us to stop being surprised by police violence and focus on steadfast, long term strategies that will lead towards defunding police and redirecting resources back to our communities. This includes exploring and reading abolitionist writings for a historical understanding of how the carceral state is inherently anti-Black and must be dismantled.
Social media is a powerful tool that can help you amplify your voice. Unfortunately, it also gives you the ability to quickly spread ignorance and tear down others. Such is the case with Instagram comedian Jess Hilarious and singer Daniel Caesar. Both are examples of young Black celebrities using social media to express uneducated, uninformed, troubling sentiments with little to no regard of their initial impact. In the words of Issa Rae, “I’m rooting for everybody Black.” But I’d also like to add that not everyone Black is informed or equipped to be thought leaders or even have a platform.
Both have been caught in controversy surrounding troubling and offensive statements towards other people of color and the Black community specifically.
A few days ago, Instagram comedian Jess Hilarious recorded and posted a video of herself mocking four passengers as they entered an airplane. The passengers were Brown men wearing turbans. Jess, assuming they were Muslim (they were actually Sikh), could be heard saying, “Ahhh! Where are you going? Where are you going?” The irony is that Jess was also wearing a headwrap. Later she screamed into her camera that she didn’t feel safe, that she felt threatened, and didn’t care how anyone else felt. She then went on the plane and said the men were no longer on the flight, leading many people to assume that she had the passengers kicked off the plane.
She posted this ignorant commentary just after 50 Muslims were murdered in the Christchurch Mosque in New Zealand. The backlash came swiftly from all sides, including the Black, Muslim, and Sikh communities.
She later cried on camera apologizing for her mistake, vowing to “do better.”
Then, as if on the same frequency of stupidity, singer Daniel Caesar went on Instagram Live to chastise the Black community for not being nicer because he believed that his friend, YesJulz ( a white female artist manager) should be allowed to say the N-word. He also stated that the Black community should stop being “sensitive,” learn from, and make friends with what he called, “the winning team.”
He then put the onus on the Black community to “bridge the gap,” concerning race. He also said, “You can’t win the game by choosing to not accept the winning team’s strategy.”
The boy clearly knows nothing about structural racism that continues to harm our communities. He knows nothing about the continued struggle for civil and human rights and it sounds like he’s been listening to Steve Harvey.
He almost certainly knows nothing about activist Audre Lorde that warned us years ago of this mentality when she said, “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.”
Again, the backlash came swiftly. During his video he vowed not to apologize but I’m sure that won’t last long once he understands the weight of his words and faces the aftermath of his comments.
This is why we must educate our youth and upcoming generations. We must “teach the babies.” So if you’re an educator, mentor, parent or any type of role model please take the time to teach youth about the impact of their voices online, the permanent damaging effects of saying anything, everywhere and recording every useless thought that comes to their minds.
Most importantly, teach them about racial, ethnic, and religious disparities across cultures, so they don’t grow up making fools of themselves by amplifying anti-Black rhetoric and discriminatory ideas that cause harm to other Black and Brown people.
Please, teach the babies! We don’t need any more grown fools.
While we were busy enthralled in the Jussie Smollett drama, a Black man from California just pulled off one of the biggest upsets in history.
According to the Washington Post, James Stern, a Black activist, tricked Neo-Nazi group, National Socialist Movement leader, Jeff Schoep, into giving him control over the organization in January 2019.
Schoep came to Stern for legal advice, and that’s when Stern saw an opportunity to take charge of the organization. They knew each other through a connection that Stern had with former KKK Grand Wizard, Edgar Ray Killen. The two were prison cellmates. And even though Killen was a racist, he made Stern the head of his estate.
Through this connection, Stern and Schoep developed an odd friendship and even hosted a racist summit together.
According to the Washington Post:
This is by far one of the strangest most thrilling stories to come out of 2019 and it’s still unfolding.
The KKK, the National Socialist Movement, and other white supremacist groups have promoted and created hateful propaganda that creates fear and division across racial groups. Their narratives have promoted racism. Their words have encouraged violence.
Stern plans to take over the organization’s website and use it as an educational tool. This is a huge opportunity to breakdown hateful narratives and instead spread narratives concerning race and ethnicity that are based on truth, justice, and reconciliation.
Additionally, Stern is working to hold the organization accountable for its violence and hateful actions from the inside out. He has also already asked a judge to, “…find the organization culpable of conspiring to commit violence at the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017. (Washington Post)”
This is the definition of getting things done and doing the work. A lot of people pay lip service to social justice and civil rights, but ultimately it takes will power, creativity and the seizing of opportunities to create impactful change.
Cheers to you James Stern! Let us know how we can support you in this fight.
Today marks 54 years since the assassination of Malcolm X. To many, he continues to serve as a teacher and guiding light for those in search of knowledge and freedom. In the face of steep oppression, he continually championed the human rights of not only Black Americans but the Pan African World as a whole.
His words are continual reminders of what it means to advocate for social justice, freedom, self-worth, and integrity.
Here are 10 Malcolm X Quotes to Live By:
1. I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it’s for or against.
2. You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.
3. Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.
4. There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.
5. You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it.
6. I just don’t believe that when people are being unjustly oppressed that they should let someone else set rules for them by which they can come out from under that oppression.
7. Stumbling is not falling.
8. Truth is on the side of the oppressed.
9. If you have no critics you’ll likely have no success.
10. Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression, because power, real power, comes from our conviction which produces action, uncompromising action.
New book alert! This looks like a very interesting read.
Bridging women’s history, the history of the South, and African American history, this book makes a bold argument about the role of white women in American slavery.
Historian Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers draws on a variety of sources to show that slave‑owning women were sophisticated economic actors who directly engaged in and benefited from the South’s slave market.
Because women typically inherited more slaves than land, enslaved people were often their primary source of wealth.
Not only did white women often refuse to cede ownership of their slaves to their husbands, they employed management techniques that were as effective and brutal as those used by slave‑owning men. White women actively participated in the slave market, profited from it, and used it for economic and social empowerment.
By examining the economically entangled lives of enslaved people and slave‑owning women, Jones-Rogers presents a narrative that forces us to rethink the economics and social conventions of slaveholding America.
Some media outlets are in a frenzy after receiving a tip that Malia Obama, daughter of former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, has a secret Facebook account. Her posts included criticism of the Trump Administration, which apparently, is shocking to some.
To me, this “revelation,” (if you want to call it that) is like telling me that water is wet. She’s the daughter of THE Michelle Obama! Which means that not only does she have a brain – she’s probably also pretty good at critical thinking. And anyone good at critical thinking – hell even simple thinking – would have criticisms for the Trump Administration.
I don’t know where this belief system comes from that Malia and Sasha Obama should be void of thoughts. Meanwhile, Meghan McCain (the daughter of John McCain) is a co-host on The View and Ivanka Trump (failed fashion line connoisseur) is in charge of God knows what in the White House.
So for anyone that’s shocked. Yes, Malia Obama (a student at Harvard University) has a brain.
A few weeks ago, it was reported that singer and Empire actor Jussie Smollett was attacked in an apparent hate crime.
Smollett told authorities he was attacked early January 29 by two men who were “yelling out racial and homophobic slurs.” He said one attacker put a rope around his neck and poured an unknown chemical substance on him. (CBS News)
Now, after much back and forth, two sources from Chicago police are telling reporters they believe that Jussie Smollett paid two men to attack him.
At a time when hate crimes are on the rise, it would be deplorable for anyone to fake an attack. People of color across America already have a difficult time getting justice when faced with racism, discrimination, and violence.
This story continues to unfold but I sincerely hope that it is not true.
Otherwise, Jussie Smollett has a lot of explaining to do and owes many people (especially the Black LGBTQ community) an apology.
Jussie Smollett’s lawyers have issued a statement:
After years of being blackballed in Hollywood, Oscar Award-winning comedian Mo’Nique sat down with Steve Harvey to settle their differences. Mo’Nique’s relationship with Harvey became strained after he publically criticized and distanced himself from her after she became outspoken about inequality and discrimination in Hollywood.
Mo’Nique also called out Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey, and Lee Daniels for not publically defending her. According to Mo’Nique, they knew she had “done nothing wrong.” Instead, according to Mo’Nique, they allowed her name to be dragged through the mud, rather than telling the truth about what was happening.
Mo’Nique won an Oscar for her outstanding performance in Lee Daniel’s film Precious. However, she was only paid $50,000 for the role and was expected to travel across the country and around the world to promote the film out of her own pocket. When she refused, she was labeled difficult. Mo’Nique then spoke openly about Hollywood’s refusal to pay Black actresses fairly.
At this point, she was blackballed.
In her sit down with Steve Harvey, Mo’Nique stood strong in her conviction that she did the right thing. Stating, “When you allow people, to start taking your freedom and your gift and making it become what makes them comfortable, we then lose.”
Steve Harvey then responded, “When you tell the truth, you have to deal with the repercussions of the truth. WE BLACK OUT HERE…”
He continued, “This the money game. This ain’t the Black man’s game. This ain’t the white man’s game. This the money game. And you can not sacrifice yourself. The best thing you can do for poor people is not be one of them.”
In this statement, Steve implies that truthtelling is the road to poverty and that to thrive, one must play “the game.”
However, Mo’Nique bravely countered, “Before the money game is the integrity game. And we’ve lost the integrity worrying about the money.”
Then Steve Harvey took a route that many people had an issue with. He acted as if standing up for Mo’Nique somehow would have made him lose his $100 million empire overnight.
Steve stated, “If I crumble, my children crumble, my grandchildren crumble. I can not for the sake of my integrity, stand up here and let everybody that’s counting on me crumble – so I can make a statement. There are ways to win the war in a different way.”
This is where we have a problem. I agree that in any situation, especially dealing with employment, we must be strategic and tactful. However, when battling a larger social issue, like the unequal payment of Black women – which is a huge issue – being quiet is the exact opposite of what we need.
This is especially true if you’re in a position of power.
Zora Neale Hurston said it best, “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”
Mo’Nique is calling out a larger social issue. She’s calling out anti-Blackness implemented by expecting Black people to allow themselves to be overworked and undervalued. We may not all be in Hollywood, but working class Black women see it every day. According to the National Women’s Law Center and Equal Pay Today, Black women face steep wage inequality.
“Black women working full time, year round typically make only 61 cents for every dollar paid to their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts.” (National Women’s Law Center)“
Just because Mo’Nique is speaking out about Hollywood instead of an office job or fast food restaurant, doesn’t mean her words are any less true. Mo’Nique is a comedy pioneer and legend. Her decades of work speaks for its self. Yet, there are some still expecting her to be quiet and “grateful” as if she’s just some novice off the street.
The larger issue that she is addressing is about Black self-worth. Are we willing to set higher standards and enforce them? Are we ready to stop accepting crumbs? Are we ready to call out injustice, even if it means a temporary set back?
Though this can be scary, history has shown us the benefits of taking a stand. Muhammad Ali showed us with his refusal to fight in Vietnam, which led to him being stripped of his heavyweight title. Rosa Parks showed us in her refusal to give up her seat, leading her to be jailed. Recently Colin Kaepernick showed us, by taking a knee during the National Anthem to bring awareness to police brutality against Blacks, leading him to lose his job.
Some may not see the connection but it is there. Mo’Nique is fighting for pay equality. Without it, Black women specifically will continue to face economic instability. This is race-based financial oppression with real-life repercussions for everyday people.
That’s where integrity comes in because the issue is deeper than Mo’Nique personally. The Steve Harveys of the world may think they’re flourishing by staying quiet. Yes, Steve Harvey may be building wealth for himself but what good is it if the people he claims to support are still dealing with everyday struggles of wage gaps and underemployment? What good is his wealth if he refuses to speak out against the mass economic oppression of his people? These are issues that he could speak out about, starting with his industry.
And standing up to Hollywood is not a far-fetched idea.
Remember when everyone thought that Dave Chapelle was crazy for walking away from his widely acclaimed Comedy Central show? Remember how the network tried to bury him, even spread rumors about drug use?
He left for his integrity. It cost him financially at first but eventually, he became even more celebrated for standing his ground and not allowing himself to be exploited for profits. Years later, he was able to fully recoup his losses and is highly respected.
This is more than about Mo’Nique. And yes, integrity may have no immediate monetary benefit. However, history has shown us that if it were not for bravery and integrity – we would still be sitting in the back of the bus being told we should be grateful just for a seat.
In December 2018, the Brookings Institute released a report that examined and documented the devaluation of homes in majority Black neighborhoods. The report found that, “Across all majority black neighborhoods, owner-occupied homes are undervalued by $48,000 per home on average, amounting to $156 billion in cumulative losses.”
As was pointed out, by Andre Perry (lead author of the report) at the Brookings Institute’s “Homeownership while Black” forum, the $156 billion in losses could have gone towards funding for:
4.4 million Black-owned businesses 8.1 million 4-year college degrees at public colleges and universities It would replace the pipes in Flint, MI 3,000 times It would fund 97% of Hurricane Katrina costs
That’s a lot of money!
Consequently, the unfair and discriminatory devaluation of Black homes harms Black residents substantially. It increases the racial wealth gap, thereby preventing access to upward mobility.
In case you were wondering why it’s hard for many Black communities to build wealth, start with reading this report.
Here are some highlights from the report:
There is strong evidence that bias has tangible effects on real estate markets, both historically and today. During the 20th century, both explicit government institutions and decentralized political actions created and sustained racially segregated housing conditions in the United States. (page 5)
This has created what has been dubbed a “segregation tax,” resulting in lower property valuations for blacks compared to whites per dollar of income. (page 5)
Contemporary work from social scientists has aimed to sort out whether these lower valuations are caused by differences in socio-economic status, neighborhood qualities, or discrimination. The results tend to show compelling evidence for discrimination. In one study, Valerie Lewis, Michael Emerson, and Stephen Klineberg collected detailed survey data on neighborhood racial preferences in Houston, Texas. They asked people to imagine that they were looking for a new house, found one within their price range and close to their job; they then say to respondents, “checking the neighborhood . . .” and then present different scenarios based on racial composition, school quality, crime, and property value changes for the hypothetical neighborhood.” (page 5)
Black Americans are highly urbanized. 90 percent live in metropolitan areas, compared to 86 percent of all U.S. residents. And decades after the Civil Rights movement, blacks remain highly segregated. Though blacks comprise just 12 percent of the U.S. population, 70 percent live in neighborhoods that are over 20 percent black, and 41 percent live in majority black neighborhoods.
These majority black neighborhoods may be overlooked as sites for economic development, but they contain important assets, in terms of people, public infrastructure, and wealth. (page 10)
The devaluation of black neighborhoods is widespread across the country. There are 119 metropolitan areas with at least one majority black census tract and one census tract that is less than 1 percent black. In 117 of these 119 metro areas, homes in majority black neighborhoods are valued lower than homes in neighborhoods where blacks are less than 1 percent of the population. Gainesville, Fla. and Sebring, Fla. are the only exceptions.
From the moment I first learned about its development, the National Museum of African American History and Culture held a special place in my heart. After the last few years of construction, it finally opened this fall.
A major attribute of people of African descent (and in this case African Americans specifically) is our standing glory and liveliness. Whenever there is an upcoming Black cultural experience, I always hope for a layered approach. One that embraces the complexity of our existence, which is often laced with joy and creativity in spite of attacks or marginalization. Walking in the National Museum of African American History and Culture is like walking into a bubble of Black self-love and never wanting to come out. It’s where we can come face-to-face with our truths and stand in awe of everything we have been through, everything we have accomplished and everything the future holds for us.
There was a deep ache in the room that housed pieces of slave ships and shackles. The voice narration lingered throughout the air, speaking of slave traders raping girls not older than 10 years old. It spoke of people throwing themselves off of ships, starving themselves in hopes that with death, they will return home to Africa.
There was a rumble in the room that housed Emmett Till’s casket, while a video of his mother played on rotation. She spoke of her son, how playful he was, how much joy was inside of him. And she spoke of how he had been butchered. She recounted how murderers tried to chop off his neck, how his right eye dangled from the socket down to his cheek. She spoke of how she wanted the world to see what had been done to her son. “Let the people see what I’ve seen.”
This is the pain, the grief that in the era of Black Lives Matter, we instinctively relive as a collective. This is not because we want to but because in many instances death associated with anti-Blackness continues to be a cruel reality.
And yet, we are still vibrant. The walls are lined with quotes from Black artists, scholars, and activists reminding us of our humanity while rejoicing in our colorful splendor. Many things were stolen from us, still many parts of us can never be stolen. I never wanted my visit to this historic museum to be about pain. Yet, the pain that I had initially set out to not feel became the catalyst for gratefulness and pride. I became more and more enamored with each step.
The greatest experience during my visit was seeing and hearing the reactions of youth.
One little boy exclaimed, “Gosh, they were strict. I’m glad I wasn’t born back then.”
A little girl read a quote on the wall about the slave blocks. She reached up high to rub the words with her fingers. She then looked down and told her sister,”They sold women and children.”
Another little girl, when seeing a hat from modern day Liberia, said her friends “Our African heritage!”
Then there was the child, that was completely in awe of Huey P. Newton’s photo displayed in the Black Power/Black Arts Movement section.
Finally, at Emmet Till’s casket, there was a teenaged girl sobbing in her father’s arms.
Just around the corner, these same children then saw Public Enemy’s bright red banner, Oprah’s stage, huge photos of the Obamas, beautiful pieces made by artisans in the 1700-1800s, Nat Turner’s bible, Langston Hughes words towering over visitors, Fannie Lou Hamer’s voice ringing and so much more.
The children are seeing, hearing, and feeling. They are literally touching the walls absorbing history, Black history…America’s history. The museum’s ability to transport children back in time to experience the tragedies and triumphs, while ushering them into a vibrant future is perhaps it’s greatest attribute of all.
This is a place where children touch the walls.
Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor is a poet, writer and social justice advocate. She’s also the founder of Our Legaci. Rant or rave to JAMAiwuyor@gmail.com. Don’t forget to join our mailing list!